Sapporo at Night

Very soon, I’m very glad I trekked up to Sapporo.

The city lies off the Shinkansen line but is the third largest city in Japan; this probably explains why the Sapporo-Tokyo air route is the busiest in the entire world. I suspect that in a day or two I may well be come the latest person to travel this route but, for now, I’m very impressed with Sapporo.

The station reminds me of Kyoto’s: it’s quite new, has at least three shopping centres attached – plus about 50 restaurants – and a JR hotel offering discounts to rail pass holders. Unlike Kyoto, however, this station is very easy to navigate and, crucially, it’s situated at the very heart of town.

img_0544.JPG

As such, it makes for a wonderful base from which to explore the city. I have just a little while to wander about and so I seek out the “famous” Sapporo clock tower. Like Hakodate and Nagasaki, Sapporo was a port town opened up to the west much earlier than the rest of Japan and so has a number of nineteenth century buildings along with a very non-Japanese street layout.

Even from this quick nighttime tour, it reminds me – more than anywhere else in Japan – of New York with its grid system and bright neon-lit squares that are just jumping. This only makes it all the more unusual that a fairly nondescript western-style clock tower should be a symbol of Sapporo, but nonetheless it’s closely associated with the city.

I take a quick look and am, like Will Ferguson – with whose progress through Japan my own now coincides – suitably underwhelmed.

img_0547.JPG

Far more interesting is the Sapporo TV tower, situated at the site from which Sapporo street addresses emanate. This is just about the only city in Japan with a logical street address system; modelled on a similar system to Washington D.C.’s, this TV tower is the equivalent of their capitol building.

Unlike the capitol building, the TV tower an open-air beer garden underneath as part of the Sapporo beer festival (this is beer country). Unfortunately, I’m too late to sample anything.

img_0558.JPG

Energised by all this, I take a wander down to Susukino, which must be the liveliest night-time district north of Tokyo.

img_0586.JPG

img_0582.JPG

What glorious excess before bedtime. I silently add Sapporo’s simple two-line subway to my private list of underground systems taken and head back to the hotel.